SOUTHEND United midfielder Michael Timlin could return ahead of schedule for Saturday’s trip to Northampton Town.

Timlin was originally expected to be out of action until the end of January with an ankle ligament injury sustained during a 2-1 defeat to Bradford City in mid-December.

But Blues boss Phil Brown could have the 32-year-old back in his squad at the Sixfields Stadium this weekend.

“Michael Timlin has thrown his hat in the ring for Saturday’s game at Northampton and he’s returned from an injury quicker than expected once again,” said Brown.

“We will see how he is in training today and tomorrow and then make a decision from there.

“But we’ve been crippled by injuries this season so I certainly won’t be taking any risks on Michael at the weekend.”

Timlin - who has lined up at left-back as well as in midfield this season - had been a regular in the starting line-up before being forced to the sidelines.

The 32-year-old started the first 19 League games of the season before serving a one match suspension and then suffered an injury on his return to the team against Bradford.

And Brown believes Timlin’s battling qualities are exactly what the Shrimpers need to get their season back on track.

“Michael’s a scrapper and he’s certainly someone you can hang your hat on to get stuck in and battle,” said Brown.

“We were missing that at Wimbledon on Monday and we’ll certainly need it on Saturday, so it’s good news he could be back.

“He actually tried to play through the pain with the injury at the time and strapped it up at half-time so he could play on.

“He probably ended up making the situation worse but it sums up Michael’s character and it’s that fighting spirit we will need to get the win at Northampton.”

Timlin has missed the Shrimpers’ last four matches, three of which have ended in defeat.

The poor run has seen Blues slip down to 17th in the League One standings, just four points above the relegation zone.

Brown’s side will therefore be desperate to triumph at the weekend but so too will Northampton, who are currently third from bottom in the table.

Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink’s struggling team have triumphed just once in their last 11 outings during a terrible run of results which includes eight defeats.